By Courtney McDonald
It’s no secret that college is stressful. It seems that many of us will spend an all-nighter studying and then reward ourselves with an all-nighter of binge-watching our favorite shows. What if we tried incorporating self-care and “treating ourselves” into our daily routine? What if we started practicing mastering the art of balance? Where would we even begin?
What is Meditation?
First of all, what is meditation? It is a mental exercise that brings us better awareness and helps us create a mind-body connection. Practing meditation daily has so many benefits, including overall better mood, lower blood pressure, and better concentration. It is important to remember that there is not a right or wrong way to do it! The important things are that you feel relaxed and enjoy the time spent doing it. Meditating every morning can help start your day off right, leading you to feel more organized and centered. Many have said that meditating every evening has been helpful for falling asleep.
There are so many different types of meditation out there to try. Some are short, some are long, some are for relaxation, some are for mindfulness, and the list goes on. Simply typing in guided meditation into the search bar on YouTube can bring about so many possibilities. When trying these meditations, I recommend that you track your mood in a journal before and after each one. Rate your stress level from 1-10 (10 being the most stressed) before and after completing a meditation. Track every time you complete a meditation and see how your ratings change!
A nother easy way to access meditations is by downloading the Headspace app . The app provides several free sessions. If you do not want to pay to continue using the app, you could always look up more meditations on Youtube once your free trial is complete. There is a lot of scientific research that supports Headspace as being an effective meditation tool. It can’t hurt to give it a try, right? What are you waiting for?!
A third way to practice meditation is by going to a class at WVU’s Student Recreation Center! Classes are free to students and offered at a fair price for non-WVU students. They are a really great way to enhance your mind-body connection. Classes are scheduled every semester for various times so that more students can attend. It is always fun to bring a friend, or even to go alone and enjoy some “you-time.”
Incorporating Meditation into your Life
If you feel like meditating is not working for you right away, have no fear. There are a lot of people that feel this way. Also, it is important to be mindful of this little saying that “neurons that wire together, fire together.” What this means is that our brains have neurons that transmit information. Practicing something consistently, such as meditating, by not letting outlying thoughts get in, not getting distracted when we are trying to be still, and so on, makes us better at it. When done enough, it actually can rewire our brain’s circuitry, meaning that it eventually becomes more natural and automatic to us. Essentially, we can train our brains to think and do what we want them to. Pretty fascinating, huh?
A final resource for learning ways to meditate and reduce stress is by going to WVU's Carruth Center. Currently, a mindfulness-based stress reduction group runs every Thursday from 3:00 pm-4:30 pm. While this group is currently full, the group leader, Yaping Anderson, will be looking for new members for next semester! Topics such as mindful eating, mindful walking, and various types of meditations are covered.
In conclusion, why not give it a try? You have nothing to lose. Sure, it might feel uncomfortable at first and you might feel out of your element, but that is okay. Sometimes, doing things we wouldn’t normally do helps us grow. If you are really concerned about others watching you or what they might think of you, it might be good to try meditating on your own first. Do it at home when you’re all alone. Try closing your eyes. Being alone is better anyway because it helps rid you of distractions. Remember to always be patient and kind with yourself. Nothing happens overnight. Improving your meditation skills will take time and practice. You've got this!
Courtney McDonald is a second year Master’s student in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Waynesburg University in Waynesbug, PA. She completed her practicum and is completing internship at WVU’s own Carruth Center where she provides personal counseling and runs groups for the Student Assistance Program (SAP). Courtney has facilitated numerous groups about meditation at her place of work, Chestnut Ridge Center. In her free time, she enjoys live music, being outside, and spending time with love ones.